The movie “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” is a quintessential 80s classic. Endlessly quotable and patently ridiculous in the very best way, the film follows the story of two high school slackers, played by Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter. The lackadaisical duo’s delusions of grandeur are realized when a man from the future, played by George Carlin, visits 1988 in a time traveling phone booth and tells them they must pass their upcoming school history project in order to preserve the future utopian society they eventually go on to help create.
The characters naturally proceed to travel back in time and collect historical figures to speak in their history presentation. Filled with frequent air-guitar riffs, totally bodacious 80s language and a lovable cast of zany historical figures, Bill and Ted’s original adventure through time is a laugh-a-minute blast.
That 1989 film was followed in 1991 by “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey,” which continued the delightfully ridiculous story of the original. The sequel, while not as good as the original, still takes its exquisite strangeness to new heights as its characters fight evil robot versions of themselves and travel through hell, befriending Death along the way.
2020’s “Bill & Ted Face the Music” is the next chapter in their wacky story, picking up some 30 years after “Bogus Journey” left off. Reeves and Winter aren’t teenagers anymore, and the film uses the massive time gap to its advantage. The story focuses on an aging Bill and Ted, having yet to unite the world through their music and create the super society they were destined to start. When a cosmological sci-fi event sets a deadline and leaves the old friends with just 77 minutes to write the world-uniting song they’ve been trying to write for decades, they resort to time travel hijinks to save the universe.
While “Face the Music” is a decent follow-up to “Bogus Journey” and does a fine job with the classic characters, the film ultimately fails to achieve the same lightning-in-a-bottle success of “Excellent Adventure.” Furthermore, the film’s more modern feel, expanded list of central characters and its less focused story cause the film to feel more scattered and not as funny as “Bogus Journey.” “Face the Music” relies more on nostalgia and self-reference than actual humor. Lastly, the film is predictable, falling back on established story tropes and abandoning some of the all-out absurdity that made its predecessors so successful.
On a more positive note, the cast is excellent. Reeves and Winter may have been born to play these roles, and even in their mid-50s, the two capture that clueless teenage attitude their characters are known for so perfectly. Their chemistry is flawless, and they’re totally believable as lifelong, inseparable best friends. After unfortunately passing away in 2008, the great George Carlin returns through a brief cameo using archive footage from the original film. Kristen Schaal is excellent in her small role as a woman from the distant future, and Brigette Lundy-Paine and Samara Weaving are wonderful as Bill and Ted’s young adult daughters. William Sadler also returns in his role as Death.
Despite the film’s structural flaws and the fact that it just isn’t quite as funny as the original two films, “Face the Music” does have a strong heart. “Face the Music’s” finale, while not nearly as excellent as the endings to either of the first two movies, still wraps up Bill and Ted’s story in a rather beautiful way. Nostalgia can serve up some pretty intense emotions on its own, and even as the film fails to innovate, it still feels touching because of its sincerity and the love for the original two films that its creators clearly have.
Overall, “Bill & Ted Face the Music” is a must-watch for any Bill & Ted fan. The film doesn’t quite live up to the hilarious strangeness of the first two movies, but it does the characters justice and concludes their journey in a sufficiently spectacular way.
Keagan Miller is a psychology senior and arts criticism writer for The Battalion.